Thursday, November 02, 2006

Muscling In

A muscle man may drive a muscle car and try to muscle in where he’s not appreciated, but even he can’t escape the age-old question: are you a man or a mouse?

In Latin, musculum meant a little mouse. The conceit was that the rippling of muscles under the skin (think biceps, for instance) looked very much like the motion of mice under a piece of cloth or sacking.

The Greeks had the same idea. For them, the word mys had two equally apt meanings: field mouse and muscle. From that source we derived the much-used medical combining form myo- (muscle): myoatrophy, myocardial, myocele, and dozens more.

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